Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Stephen Colbert borrows Triumph from Conan to pester Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz

Beto O’Rourke, Triumph
Beto O’Rourke, Triumph
Screenshot: The Late Show

On the night before Election Day (which is today as you read this, so vote, goddammit), the people who daily or weekly tear their hair out trying to find humor in the ongoing national nightmare that is the Republican-controlled Trump administration went all-out. Samantha Bee aired a special Monday episode of Full Frontal with the running themeVote, Dummies.” (She also texted a picture of her butt to a local Georgia Democrat—for democracy.) Seth Meyers, who’s currently airing an Election Day marathon of his uniformly sharp “A Closer Look” segment online, spent his Monday “A Closer Look” urging voters to look past Donald Trump and the Republicans’ last-minute, Hail Mary racist fearmongering and vote out those stoking people’s basest fears in order to rob them blind.

On The Daily Show, Trevor Noah went bipartisan on his election-eve episode, having Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Governor John Kasich (R-OH) on to hash out the midterms mess. (Even flipping a coin to see who goes first.) Jimmy Fallon took the celebrity route to some big yucks, trotting out Mike Myers as Dr. Evil, who announced his candidacy for congressman from Rhode Island (which is apparently where his evil volcano lair is), since, as he said, “evil is in.” Jimmy Kimmel flashed a series of polls behind him showing that Americans aren’t especially divided after all on some crazy “liberal” ideas like background checks, Medicare, net neutrality, the fact that climate change is real, protecting DREAMers, and making rich people actually pay taxes.

But Stephen Colbert had the big pull of the night—Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)! Wait, that’s not it. While Senator Klobuchar did make some fine and cogent points about the need for people to vote and the many, many, many reasons why leaving Donald Trump and the Republicans with unchecked power is a fucking nightmare (not verbatim, but you can tell), Colbert had another, smaller, fake-furrier guest that stole the show. Since Conan O’Brien has put Conan on hiatus as he prepares to retool his format, Conan’s longtime puppet pal Triumph The Insult Comic Dog was left begging for a midterm-elections gig. So Colbert offered the longtime political gadfly and Montenegrin Mountain Hound puppet with Robert Smigel’s hand up its ass a chance to weigh in on the hotly contested Texas senate race between Democrat (and “12th man on every NBA team”) Beto O’Rourke and Republican incumbent (and Shape Of Water hideous fish-monster) Ted Cruz. But Triumph keeds.


As ever, Triumph’s schtick is a mix of low-blow personal attacks and sly, expertly delivered satirical broadsides, with some of Smigel’s peerless improvisational quick-thinking thrown in. Cruz, trying to seem like the good sport with a human sense of humor and any scrap of charisma he is notoriously not, unwisely made a neutering joke, opening himself up to Triumph’s comeback referencing how Cruz has humiliated himself before the president who infamously slapped him with insulting nicknames, called his wife ugly, and intimated that his dad killed JFK.

Crowd work is Triumph’s specialty, seen when addressing a gaggle of older Cruz supporters unable to keep from laughing when Triumph defended Cruz against the old joke that he’s actually the Zodiac Killer. Noting that Cruz’s plans to eliminate healthcare coverage for people with pre-existing conditions would be a whole lot more effective than the Zodiac’s one-at-a-time murder strategy, Triumph repeatedly stretched out the phrase “way more” until everyone involved broke down in spite of themselves. Actually getting interviews with both candidates was something of a coup for Triumph, even as Cruz’s glowering security and screaming supporters berated him for talking to a hectoring Jewish dog puppet. Triumph got his revenge, though, eventually leading the crowd surrounding Cruz’s departing campaign bus in a “Lion of the senate!” chant that sounded a lot like something less complimentary.

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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